Dom Ruinart & och Dom Ruinart Rosé are Ruinarts cuvée de prestige champagnes with strong charachter that fits well with the seasonal ending of the year
RICHARD JUHLIN ON DOM RUINART According to a variety of sources, the monk Dom Ruinart had almost the same significance during his lifetime as his good friend Dom Pérignon, the man who was described long afterwards as the father of champagne.
Thierry Ruinart (1657-1709), a Benedictine monk from Reims, provided his nephew Nicolas Ruinart with sufficient knowledge to be able to establish the first Champagne House in 1729. The company soon became successful on widely varied export markets, and it was frequently visited on account of its deep, exceptionally beautiful limestone cellars, today classed as a historical monument. Deep down in these cellars, several of the world’s foremost sommeliers competed in the prestige-filled contest Trophée Ruinart. It was not until as recently as 1959 that the House made its first prestige champagne which logically enough was a blanc de blancs from the company’s own grand cru vineyards, presented in an old-fashioned, broad-beamed bottle with a narrow neck, practically identical to those used by the monks.
The fantastic Dom Ruinart and Dom Ruinart Rosé wines are made in an antioxidative (reductive) style, and their basic wine is the same as that in the cuvée. The red wine additive of about 15% Pinot Noir comes from their own vineyards at Sillery and Verzenay as well as the unknown grand cru village Puisieulx in Montagne de Reims. The thing that makes Dom Ruinart different from for example Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne and other high class multi-cru blanc de blancs, such as Pol Roger, Billecart-Salmon and Roederer Blanc de Blancs, is that apart from its basic wine from grand cru villages in the Côte des Blancs, a fairly high proportion of Chardonnay from Pinot villages has also been included. Of these villages, Sillery with its tough, smoky minerality and well-structured body stands for the lion’s share. This makes Dom Ruinart unique and personal. Apart from this fact, it should be noted that since they have been incorporated into the LVMH group, the same yeast is being used as in Dom Pérignon, which is a logical part of the explanation as to why Dom Ruinart is considered by certain people as being a Dom Pérignon Blanc de Blancs, which is a thing that they are naturally not striving for but that has also been my conclusion in a number of blind tastings.
An interesting detail is that the young winemaker Fred Panaiotis comes from Veuve Clicquot where it was prophesied that he would be Jacques Peter’s successor, before the plans were suddenly changed. Veuve Clicquot’s house style is quite different from that represented by Ruinart. The main difference is that Clicquot’s masculinely powerful style is purposely oxidative. The readjustment for Fred was great and dramatic, but it feels as though he, as one of the most talented winemakers I’ve met, has very quickly found his way style-wise. Fred is incredibly open to impulses, and he learns new things in a flash. I myself tasted quite a lot of Dom Ruinart with him during his first months at the House, and carried on deep analytical discussions based on my great tasting experience, so that he would be able to understand as rapidly as possible what a great, classical Dom Ruinart should be like. This is the kind of thing that only he who wants to be best will do, not leaving anything to chance! Fred is trying to express purity and minerality by blending the most elegant Chardonnay from the Côtes des Blancs with the more powerful version of the same type of grape from the northern Montagne de Reims. He sees the rosé version as a blanc de blancs rosé that offers a unique and paradoxical complexity through its long storage, a complexity in which the nose is distinctly reminiscent of a great red Burgundy, interwoven with an unbelievably pure and invigorating taste.
For those of you who enjoy elegant champagne with chalky minerality, citrus aroma and stringent acids backed up by a toasted character reminiscent of Charles Heidsieck, Belle Epoque and Dom Pérignon, Dom Ruinart Blanc is going to be a big favourite. For those of you who love the most feminine of the Burgundy red wines such as Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses from Roumier or Griotte-Chambertin from Ponsot, while not having anything against gentle creamy silkiness and a splash of champagne bubbles inflated with minerality, a twenty year old Dom Ruinart Rosé should be a heavenly experience.
What is the quality like today then, seen in a historical perspective?
In August 2011, I updated my already voluminous tasting register of this fantastic wine at an extremely comprehensive Dom Ruinart tasting at the eminent and star-winning oasis Sölleröd Kro north of Copenhagen. A place where time seems to have stood still, as it were in a tale by HC Andersen, and where the sun always shines brightly, just like the guests. A private Danish enthusiast called Björn Leisner, who carries out the same type of vertical tasting every year, with the most legendary champagnes, had collected together the cannonade of wines during a period of ten years. This was the sixth year in a row that we had gathered together around a new theme with the same basic concept. The champagnes that we had enjoyed and analysed had in turn been Dom Pérignon, Cristal, Comtes de Champagne, Krug and Salon, and now the turn had come to Dom Ruinart. The whole event is always brilliantly organised and those of us in the Scandinavian tasting group enjoyed yet another wonderful weekend with colossal amounts of first rate food and Dom Ruinart in just as copious amounts. 32 different wines were lined up to go with marvellous champagne dishes composed by the most congenial star chef in the Nordic countries, Jan Restorf. Classical commodities like caviare, sweetbreads, truffles, duck liver, turbot, salmon, chicken, ceps and fillet of veal were accompanied this time by some more subtle modern vegetable creations such as for example gazpacho in three textures. Desserts are of course categorically avoided out of consideration to the tasting, and water and bread are perpetually neutralising companions. Lunch, consisting of six courses, was followed by a sunny walk around the water lily lake for a couple of hours before a ten course dinner was served. The whole time accompanied by a half-blind trio of Dom Ruinart. When one has two heavyweights as different as the white edition and the rosé version, every serving becomes a joy. One never has time to tire, since the wealth of variation on the same closely related theme is inexhaustible.
It was difficult this time to draw any general conclusions about at which stage or age the wines ought to be consumed. We did not succeed in agreeing either about whether the blanc de blancs or the rosé was the most brilliant star. It was however quite clear that the stage that the rosé wines often land up in, most often around the age of twenty or so, provides an amazingly unique wine experience that really has to be lived by oneself, not just read about. Generally speaking, one can probably say that it is a criminal act to drink up one’s bottles from younger vintages than 1990. The 80s are a delightful era just at present regarding these wines, while the beginning of the 70s and the 60s feel more uncertain despite the fact that the second vintage 1969 of Dom Ruinart Rosé is one of the absolute best, as is the white 64. Which ones are my absolute favourites? Well, that is very much a question of what shape one is in that day, when it comes to both the wines and myself. On certain occasions, I have preferred the oily 90s above the classically elegant 88s, but when everything is particularly in tune in the magnum and in the vinothèque form, then it is of course only the 79 that can beat the 88s. Now this is only my personal taste, and the choice is actually much more a matter of style than of quality. I have full respect for anyone who highlights the oily vintages 90, 82 and 64 as his darlings, just as I have for those who find themselves somewhere in the middle and vote for vintages such as 96, 81 or 78.
2004 RUINART ’DOM RUINART’ | Reims | Champagne | France | 100CH | RJpoints 91(94)
TASTING NOTE ‘As so often before, almost riesling fragrant in his youth with petroleum, lime in the bouquet. Rocky fresh acific minerality. Tight floral flavor profile and chalky Sillery in great form as the backbone. Wait for the fruit roundness and butteriness that will come sneaking in a few years.’
2002 RUINART ’DOM RUINART ROSÉ’ | Reims | Champagne | France | 15PN 85CH | RJpoints 91(95)
TASTING NOTE ‘This gorgeous vintage seldom disappoints.Even more Dom Perignon-rosé like than before. Fatter, a bit heavier than most vintages with a major influence by Pinot Noir-tones and with the typical yeast culture that have not been fully roasted yet. The structure is amazing but the aromas are too undeveloped in the current situation. Domo Ruinart Rosé is always a Burgundy-like champagne with profound aromas of black truffle, roses, leather and Brie de Meaux with age. The DRC of rosé champagne?!’